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Helping children with dyslexia: Improving visual sequential memory

In this series from VisionWorks by Sarah Evans, we are exploring the visual difficulties often experienced by children with dyslexia. This time, we are looking at visual sequential memory and how to help your child develop this skill.


Visual sequential memory is the ability to remember forms (including shape, orientation, size, and colour) or characters in the correct order. This skill is particularly important in spelling. Missing, added or jumbled letters within words are common for people who struggle with this skill, and they will often whisper or talk aloud as they write. Recognising and remembering patterns may also be a problem.

Improved sequential memory can help improve your child’s reading skills. To do this effectively, both auditory sequential and visual sequential memory skills need to be developed. Auditory sequential and visual sequential memory skills are the ability to remember things seen and heard in sequence. This plays an important role in learning to remember the difference between words such as on and no and being able to complete tasks in the order they were given.

This is not only vital for reading, but for spelling and mathematics as well. As you can imagine, saying 91 + 1 or 19 + 1 , spelling t-a-r instead of r-a-t, or reading dog instead of god could completely change the meaning of a situation.

There are lots of activities that can help your child to improve their visual sequential memory skills:

  • Play word games such as hangman, word searches or crossword puzzles.


  • Practise memorising sequences of objects, shapes or colours. For those not yet familiar with letters or words, visual sequential memory can be developed by stringing bead patterns on necklaces, memorising sequences of shapes or by remembering a series of objects (e.g. a shopping list)


  • Talk about your day with your child and then recall each other’s events


  • Practise finding patterns in letters, numbers, shapes or objects within a sequence to help remember it. It may help to look for patterns or repeated parts. This streamlines the memory process by reducing the number of units the child needs to remember


  • Use prepared flash cards or pieces of paper with pictures of familiar objects pasted on them, one object per page. Begin by showing your child three flash cards sequentially, allowing one second for each card, then ask the child to name the items in the order they were seen. As sequential memory improves, increase the number of cards for each round


  • Use visual images to help your child remember information in a particular order. A useful activity for children is to place a number of images (three or four to begin with) that relate to a specific subject and ask them to tell a story about the images, linking one to the next but using the correct name for each image. Remove the cards and take a short break, then ask your child to retell the story. Increase the number of images displayed as your child becomes more confident


  • To build auditory sequential memory, play a game of repeat after me. For young children, use one syllable words they easily recognise, beginning with two words, such as “cat” and “mouse”. Ask the child to repeat the words in the same order that you said them. Increase the number of words repeated one at a time


  • You can use clapping or stomping patterns with older children. Clap a specific sequence, such as “clap-clap-pause-clap,” and ask the child to repeat it. As the child masters sequences of four beats, increase to longer sequences